Resound, revision, recollection:
Sensing through colonial archives

KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (Yogyakarta)

1st May – 10th June 2017, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam

Organized with Wayne Modest, Head of the Research Center for Material Culture / Tropenmuseum

For its second chapter, Heterotropics joined forces with the Research Center for Material Culture and invited KUNCI Cultural Studies Center (Yogyakarta, Indonesia) to engage in a 6-week research residency at the Tropenmuseum. The Tropenmusuem was founded in 1926 in the East of Amsterdam as the city's colonial museum. Its purpose was to show Dutch overseas possessions mainly from the Dutch East Indies. Following the independence of Indonesia in 1945, the museum transitioned into the current configuration of ethnographic museum and is today in the process of rethinking its permanent exhibitions and displays of the colonial past.

During their residency, KUNCI researched the various collecting and representational practices related to the former Dutch East Indies at the Tropenmuseum, considered both as an archival corpus and narrative device. The permanent exhibition The Netherlands East Indies constituted the focal point of the residency. Inaugurated in 2003, the exhibition is fashioned as a "colonial theater" which was made to illustrate the century-long colonization of nowadays Indonesia by the Netherlands. Through hyper-realistic life-size mannequins and artifacts of different kinds, the "colonial theater" aims to provide the audience with narrative sceneries of the daily life in the so-called East Indies, exploring different macro-areas.

Following KUNCI's interest in sound and ubiquitous transmission, the residency has been developed through various sound interventions both inside and outside the Tropenmuseum. KUNCI's webradio platform Radio KUNCI was used as a strategical way of disseminating knowledge across geo-political boundaries and also as a reference to the employment of this medium during colonial times. Aiming to unleash alternative epistemologies and shifting confabulations, Heterotropics#2 reflected on the aftertastes and afterlives of colonialism, archival language and the politics of memory taking the Tropenmuseum as a starting point.


broadcasting series

In the form of weekly conversations and visits, these radio broadcasts functioned both as a communication and research tool. The series took place both inside and outside of the Tropenmuseum and focused on topics related to archiving, colonial history, urban appropriation strategy, museology, memory and heritage. → listen

Symposium Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing knowledge through ethnographic archives (6th June, Tropenmuseum)

Convening local and international speakers, the final symposium interrogated intersections between decolonial research, artistic practices and alternative knowledge production. → more info

Outside Within the Colonial Theater: An Audio Guide

This three-part audio guide is a site-specific intervention realized by KUNCI in the Netherlands East Indies permanent exhibition at the Tropenmuseum. It functions as an alternative reading of the objects and the mannequins being displayed. Available online here or on Radio KUNCI it can be accessed by everyone, everywhere. → listen

The project forms a part of a new long-term project by KUNCI entitled “School of Improper Education” in which the collective will engage with alternative modes of education and knowledge transmission.

Heterotropics#2 was realised with the kind support of the Research Center for Material Culture, Amsterdamse Fonds voor de Kunst, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.


KUNCI is a collective of artists and theorists initiated in Yogyakarta in 1999. Its activities span different fields trespassing and expanding existing disciplinary boundaries. Since its founding, KUNCI has been deeply preoccupied with critical knowledge production and sharing through means of media publication, cross-disciplinary encounter, research-action, artistic intervention and vernacular education within and across community spaces